A £5 million company with a female CEO hosts underground, masked sex parties in cities around the world - and has raised over £500,000 to launch an app
- Emma Sayle is the CEO and founder of Killing Kittens, a "female empowerment brand" valued at £5 million which hosts high-end sex parties for its members around the world.
- The concept? To provide a safe space for women to explore their sexuality.
- The parties have anywhere between 60 and 200 guests and are held in apartments, mansions, or country homes in the likes of London, New York, Paris, Venice, and Sydney.
- She told Business Insider what goes on behind the scenes - and what people get wrong about it.
- The company recently crowdfunded more than £500,000 to take the brand digital with a new platform and app.
- Sayle also just launched SafeDate, an app which encourages users to check in before a date, and have a notification sent to someone they trust if they don't check back in by an agreed upon time.
In capital cities around the world, luxurious sex parties are being held in mansions and clubs right under our noses - but they're nothing like you'd expect.
40-year-old Emma Sayle founded "female empowerment brand" Killing Kittens in 2005 after she realised there was nowhere for women to explore their sexuality in a safe environment without being judged.Previously working in financial PR, the CEO told Business Insider: "It was all about the time that 'Sex and the City' was out, and there was all of this talk about the female sexual revolution, and women being able to talk about their sex lives."
However, she added that while it was being written and talked about, it wasn't happening in society.
"Women were still being judged for one night stands, but when men had a one night stand they were a legend," she said. "There was a real imbalance, and I wanted to do something about it."
Building the 'KK Army'
The name of the company, known to its members simply as "KK," has an interesting back story.
It comes from the expression: "Every time you masturbate, God kills a kitten," according to Sayle, who said she heard the phrase while partying in Ibiza."I liked the name, I liked the two K's. In my 'I haven't slept for three days' state, I said 'That's what I'm calling it.'"
The events started on a small scale - about 30 to 50 people once per month - but they started to grow organically and through word of mouth.
"It became a sort of movement," she said, adding that she now calls members the "KK Army."
"We have events all over the world now, and the digital world has exploded as well."
Becoming a Kitten
Along with the parties, Killing Kittens is an online community featuring chatrooms and a blog.
"It doesn't matter where you are in the world, you can communicate and chat to other people and not be judged," Sayle said.
To become a member, you must register on the site and go through the vetting process, which involves submitting photos, "verifying you're a real person," and explaining why you're on the site and what you're looking for, according to Sayle. It also involves a one-off £20 fee."Our members want [someone] of a certain age, or more girls, or girls only," she said.
While you can be a free member and just pay for the event tickets, should you be accepted, you can also opt to pay £10 a month to use the digital platform, where there's a blog and chat rooms where you can arrange meet-ups.
However, the brand is best known for its Killing Kittens parties, which Sayle calls "more full on masked parties in mansions, private houses, and clubs [where] if you wander into certain areas you will see people shagging."
'What goes on in there stays in there'
The locations range from penthouse apartments filled with 60 people to mansions and country houses with 150-200 guests, according to Sayle.
"We've been in New York, in Dublin, in a castle in Scotland, in villas in Sydney, in Venice, in Paris," Sayle said, adding that the parties all have a similar format.
"They're all masked, cocktail dress, with a Champagne/cocktail oyster reception."
There are also DJs and burlesque dancers with the bigger venues.She described the demographic as "AB," adding that the company doesn't like single men coming on their own.
"It keeps the testosterone factor down," she said. "We have groups of girls come and dance around in their underwear and don't do anything else, because they know they're not going to get hit on, so they can just relax."
At each party, there are "playooms" and candlelit bedrooms with music.
"If you want to get naked, you go there," she said. "What goes on in there stays in there."
And there are a few other strict rules, like the fact that all members must wear masks - but the main one is that men can't approach women.
There are also "Kurious" events, which Sayle launched three years ago, where you can explore the KK world without being a member or being vetted - you can simply buy a ticket.
"A big part wasn't just coming to events and getting naked, [but] finding out about yourself and your sexuality," she said. The Kurious events involve talks, workshops, and weekend retreats that aim to inspire confidence.
'I watched Batman carry a guy wrapped up in a sheet'
Ultimately, we were most interested in the sex parties, though - and Sayle says the company has organised the "occasional fantasy experience" even outside of these, "with everyone's permission" of course.In one, "we'd kidnap the partner and they'd follow clues and have to rescue the girl who they'd find tied up in some hotel," she said.
"One guy wanted to be kidnapped in Kensington Gardens by Batman and rescued by Supergirl, who had been tied up in a hotel.
"I watched Batman carry a guy wrapped up in a sheet."
She added that police often turn up at the events, even though they're not doing anything illegal.
"Every event there's something funny that happens," she laughed - and she describes in her book "Behind the Mask," which she wrote in 2012.
Crowdfunding to go digital
Of the more than 100,000 members worldwide, more than 70% are in the UK, with the rest are across the US, Australia, and Europe, according to Sayle, who added the membership is also an even 50/50 male/female split.
And now, they have the chance to become investors in the business.
The company started a Seedrs crowdfunding campaign to raise £500,000 for digital expansion earlier this month - and it's already surpassed its target.
"To go into the tech world and digital world, we need to go big or go home," Sayle said.
"We need a site and an app to go with it, and that's not cheap.
"Getting individuals to put large amounts in didn't feel comfortable - it's always been about the community."
While the crowdfunding platform started out private for members only, it was opened up to the public earlier in July, and is now at £598,100, with the company already valued at £5 million pre-funding.
The company plans to use the funds to introduce a new digital platform including a Killing Kittens app (to be released in December), as well as to promote Sayle's other new app, SafeDate, which was released earlier this month.
Funding a 'safety app'
"They liked the anonymous side of it," Sayle said.
With SafeDate, which is free to download and use, you can check in when you go on a date with information on where you're going, and select the person or people who will receive a message if you don't check back onto the platform when you say you will.
And it's not just for dating.
"I have friends who have teenage daughters, [and] it's something good for a parent to know their daugher has it on their phone," she said. "If they're on a cinema date, they can put in a time they have to check back in, and if they don't, their "safe people" will get a message with the details of where they've been."
She added it can also be great for people working in bars to let someone know once they leave work that they've checked in at home safely.
This isn't the first time Sayle has pushed for female empowerment outside of the sex space.
She started The Sisterhood, an organisation which empowers girls and women to believe in themselves and "have each others' backs," 12 years ago - and even got some attention from a then-single Kate Middleton.
"It came from a drunk bet with some guys about racing eachother across the English Channel in dragon boats and grew from there," she said. "It became a big community. It's got sport at its core and crazy challenges."
Members have rafted down the Amazon, climbed Kilimanjario, and they paricipate in a big charity ball every year. Next April, they'll be competing in a relay race from LA to Vegas.
Sayle said Middleton, a "lovely human being" who she has "lots of mutual friends" with, came to The Sisterhood right at its start to do the Channel crossing. "It was when she'd split with William, then she got back together with him and pulled out and the rest is in the history books," she said.
She added that now, at the helm of Killing Kittens, she and Middleton are in "very different worlds."
Proving people wrong
There are certainly a lot of people who doubt her - and a number of misconceptions about what goes on within her company.
For starters, she said there's a perception that you have to get naked and have sex to come along to a Killing Kittens party.
"There is sex that happens at some of the events, but it's not the reason why people go," she said. "It's a by-product of being there."
She added that a lot of people also assume it's a big swingers party.
"It's not at all," she said, adding that only 19% of members are couples. "The rest are singles, and the couples don't consider themselves swingers.
"The perception is that it's some big seedy shagging setup, without getting the whole female side of it."
However, the numbers are starting to speak for themselves, and Sayle said friends are "starting to get" the business side of things.
According to Sayle, Killing Kittens' turnover has increased by 30-50% every year for the last five years, and last year turned over £1 million.
She told Business Insider she has also had interest from dating apps who want to build the SafeDate tech into their platforms.
"Friends spent a decade asking when I'd get a proper job, now I say: 'Now do you get it?'
"The list of people I've proved wrong gets longer and longer."